Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D), who has been accused of controlling Black elected officials, made a rare appearance at SOBE’s Lounge for the birthday party and campaign announcement of County Clerk Sydney Harrison (D), who is running to replace term limited Mel Franklin (D) as the District 9 representative on the county council.

Harrison, according to several political insiders, originally intended to run for one of two at-large seats, but allegedly cut a deal with Maryland Del. Michael Jackson (D-27) that provides a stronger path to victory for Franklin, who currently is carrying a lot of criticism because of his recent DUI arrest.

“Since my heart has always been in Southern Prince George’s County, I have decided to run for County Council in District 9,” Harrison said during a Facebook live stream of the event. “In order to be successful, I will need your continued prayers, support and involvement. After spending the past three years and one year remaining serving as Prince George’s County Clerk of the Circuit Court, I feel it is the appropriate time to further expand my commitment to serve the citizens of South Prince George’s County.”

Bruce Branch (Courtesy Photo)

Franklin and Harrison make it no secret that they are political prodigy’s of Miller, who recently came under fire in the Black community for his support of the Roger Taney statue which Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had removed last month. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D) also called for his censure in the state senate.

At the event, Harrison praised Miller for his support.

David Billings, Harrison’s chief political strategists, said people shouldn’t make too much of Miller’s appearance at SOBE’s. Miller’s appearance at SOBE’s, a popular Black nightclub and restaurant, shocked many people in the room. No one could remember the last time Miller had shown up in support of another candidate at a similar event in the county, but it is well-known that he has guided the elections of State Sens. Joanne Benson (D-24) and Ulysses Currie (D-25) and maintains a strong influence on their political decisions.

“Sydney (Harrison) is in the 27th and Miller’s district as a member of the Democratic Central Committee,” Billings told the AFRO. “Miller is the state senator so you would want his support. I sent invitations of Sydney’s announcement to all the senators in the county. You are going to get some connection (between Harrison and Miller).”

In light of Harrison’s decision, many political insiders speculate that Miller needs to maintain support on the council in light of the growing support for Muse, who is running a strong campaign against Angela Alsobrooks to replace current County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is running for governor of Maryland. While Harrison has not made a public endorsement, Billings said he is personally supporting Muse and he added that the Harrison campaign would not be endorsing Franklin, who is running for an at-large County seat, in spite of Miller’s support, because of his recent DUI. “We feel as though once he announces the media is going to kill him,” Billings said. “He hit somebody and ran in the woods. We know the people that he hit.” Franklin pleaded guilty to driving while impaired earlier this year and received probation.

The loser in all this may be Jackson, who also had his eye on one of the two at-large council seats available, but has decided to remain in his current seat for one more term. Jackson had hoped to be the heir apparent to Miller, but things have changed.

“We have been sitting down with Michael Jackson and we just kept waiting and waiting for him to make a decision,” Billings told the AFRO. “We wanted to run at large, but we decided to run in Council District 9 and recently Jackson told us he was going to stay as a delegate. He wants to replace Miller as senator, but we have been told that Miller wants his daughter to replace him. He (Jackson) felt Miller was trying to push him out.”

For now, Miller is expected to be challenged in the primary and the general election by candidates hoping to unseat him and he may need Jackson’s help to win.

With Jackson out of the race for at-large county council seat, Karen Toles is said to be eying Harrison’s position as Clerk of the Court instead of the at-large race for the council. However, Billings said the Harrison campaign would be supporting Clerk of the Court Chief Deputy Benita Rabalais. Mahasin S. El-Amin, who works in Miller’s law firm and is the daughter of Prince George’s County District Court Judge Hassan A. El-Amin, is reportedly considering running for the seat although no announcement has been made.

However, former Del. Gerron Levi, who has strong union support, told the AFRO she is readying a campaign to run for an at-large Council seat. Levi, who also ran for county executive in 2010, finished second to current District 6 Council Member Derrick Leon Davis in 2014. Baker aide Calvin Hawkins will probably be a strong contender in the race given his name recognition and experience.

“We are planning to run a strong campaign that is focused on the needs of the people of Prince George’s County,” Levi told the AFRO. “We believe that we can make a difference in this current political climate.”